Piston Slap: An Indistinguishable Ball of Rust?

piston slap an indistinguishable ball of rust

Mike writes:

Good morning Sajeev.

Ask (for Piston Slap questions) and you shall receive. You are under no obligation to publish this assuming you receive more interesting material. Thanks for doing what you do.

You may remember me as one of your fellow Lincoln Mark VIII enthusiasts. The sway bars rock, and for now, I’m still running the OEM HIDs in my 2nd gen, hoping you find an aftermarket solution you deem adequate, and spread the word when the time comes. Although I do now own a pair of Doug’s delrin adapters, just in case.

But this isn’t about that car. Oh yes, it’s the Panther!

I am the proud owner of a 1986 Lincoln Town Car, that I bought in 1997 with about 160k miles on it. It now has 330,000 miles on it and the Minnesota winters have not been kind. This has been my do-all vehicle, as well as my winter vehicle, for a number of years now. It is equipped year round with snow tires. I tow with it, I haul lumber in/on it, it takes me canoeing camping, and bicycling. Or it did until a couple weeks ago, when I blew a brake line.

That in and of itself would not be a big problem, but here is my concern. Last winter, all of the fuel lines went. (send, and return.) they’ve since been replaced. Everything underneath the car is a large, indistinguishable ball of rust. The power steering leaks. Badly. The transmission is reluctant to engage after coming to a stop sign in cold weather (until things warm up.) I guess I’m just at the point where I wonder if it is time to let this one go. The mid ’90s Town Cars can be had for 2-4 thousand on craigslist locally, or if I really want to go crazy, I could get a loan and pick up the W12 Phaeton I’ve been eyeing up..

I am leaning strongly toward dropping it off at the shop and let my mechanic so he can at least take a glance at it. We have an understanding. If he tells me to “run away!” I will. If not, I Assume it will be a couple hundred bucks for a new line from front to back. that’s still better than a couple thousand for a new used car with “unknown” problems. But in the end, I’m still driving a rusty, ’86 Lincoln. At least when the next thing breaks, I still have my trusty ’72 Jeep Commando as a backup.

Why yes. Those *are* 8′ 2x4s in that last photo…

And if you ever find yourself in Minnesota, I’ll buy you a beer.

Sajeev answers:

I do quite enjoy talking to a member of the Lincoln brotherhood, so it’s all good. I still need to make my old-to-modern HID conversion adapters. One day I’ll get them machined and ready to sell. It’ll never make money–which is depressing–but I probably have no other choice. Because these cars were (almost) the first to have HIDs in the USA (a few 7-series BMWs from 1994-ish did have them) I really want to do the conversion for all of us…but there’s no time right now. Damn these labors of love!

Anyway, about the Panther…the indistinguishable ball of rust, as you so eloquently mentioned.

Cars in this situation are ticking time bombs: at some point it will be painfully obvious that it’s time to move on. I am not entirely sure you have reached it. But you will. I suspect a large rust hole in the floor board or a failing DOA gearbox (AOD, get it?) is in your future. Probably not your near future, but it’s gonna happen.

When will your Town Car die a rusty, crusty death? Whenever it does, I will be watching this video and will pour one out for a fallen automotive soldier.

And I’ll do my best to sing “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city” without offending Mr. Bobby Bland. Because this Panther most certainly did you right, son.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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4 of 10 comments
  • Toad Toad on Apr 16, 2012

    If a $200 brake line repair made you think twice I don't think you are ready for the maintenance costs of a Phaeton W12. I'm not sure ANYBODY is ready for the maintenance costs of that car.

    • See 1 previous
    • Mike Mike on Apr 17, 2012

      @28-Cars-Later :D Very good points. In my own defense, the Phaeton wasn't a rustbucket. But yes. I'll confess that it was mostly a dream..

  • Chicagoland Chicagoland on May 07, 2012

    Get that 97 or maybe try for a 2000 TC.

  • Garrett They’ve basically screwed Alfa over. Nobody’s going to buy the Tonale. Also, the last Dodge compact vehicle was also a reworked Alfa.
  • Kip65688146 "Everyone is worried about the public stations, but why don't we focus on the low hanging fruit: home charging? "BAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.............This guy gets it!I'll add current battery tech means EV's in their current state are not replacements for ICE Cars & trucks but make a good argument as 2rd or 3rd vehicles in mulit-car households which is hardly a niche market.
  • 2ACL Looking forward to the next part. I didn't like the first generation, but the second-generation was on my radar; I like the low-key, yet elegant styling, and the automotive media raved that the road-handling was significantly cleaned up from its nautical predecessor's. I'd still consider one if a replacement event unexpectedly befell my TL, but developments since have made that something of a long shot.
  • Deanst “Switching to EVs will be end of the Dodge brand. Nobody wants EVs.”Tesla, a brand which only sells EVs, is the number 1 luxury vehicle seller in America. But do go on…….
  • Randall Tefft Sundeen Oldsmobile was ALWAYS my favorite GM marque ! I remember as a kid you couldn't walk down the street without tripping on one! In 1977 and 1984 respectively olds sold. Million units, GM's second biggest seller as well as being the test brand for new options (Why take a risk with Cadillac?) The first CLUTCHLESS MANUAL , the first ELECTRIC POWER WINDOWS the first AUTOMATIC not to mention in 1974 the first airbag. Iam fortunate enough to live in a warm climate where old cars are plentiful sadly very few Oldsmobiles. Many features we take for granted were developed by this special brand